March 10, 2015
John L. Cantrell Homesite to Laurel Fork Falls
The rain broke with dawn, and clouds hung heavy in the sky as we started the hike up Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina at 3,553’. The hike is less than a mile from our campsite to Sassafras, with amazing panoramic views. These views come at a price. Recently, the entire top of the mountain was deforested. As soon as we started the final ascent of Sassafras, we saw a 200-250 year old tree cut to a stump. The road was now paved, and then we saw that the entire mountain was decimated. In its place was a bench, a marker, a cell phone tower and power lines.
After Sassafras, we descended to an old logging road. There was a sign stating that in 1971, the “old growth time [was] harvested,” and white pine seedlings were planted. I looked around. All of those 44 year old trees were just cut down. Rain began to fall as we stopped at a rock outcropping to take shelter, fix coffee and breakfast and put on our rain gear. The trail then descends from White Pine Point to Chimneytop Gap. At the start of the Laurel Fork section, we wanted to hike 7.5 more miles to the campsite at Laurel Fork Falls. This section of trail is beautiful. The highlights were crossing and re-crossing Laurel Fork Creek and Virginia Hawkins Falls, bridges, creeks and streams, and lush green laurel.
As sunset approached we made it to camp and set up the tent just above the waterfall. It was utterly spectacular way to end the day. We met Whitney, an Outdoor Leadership professor at North Greenville University and her friend Eric. It was another great campfire conversation, another great evening.
Total mileage is 13.4 miles.